Castleton State University, Northern Vermont University and Vermont Technical College will not resume on-site classes in April, as originally planned, and will continue remote classes through the end of the spring semester, according to a letter to students posted this week by Vermont State College System Chancellor Jeb Spaulding.

Castleton has canceled this year's graduation ceremony, according to Karen Scolforo, president of the university.

Spaulding's letter addressed classes, residence halls and refunds.

“As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve rapidly, the chancellor’s office and the (Vermont State College System, or VSCS) presidents have made a series of difficult decisions that will have a great impact on the remainder of the spring 2020 semester,” he wrote.

The letter notes that the Vermont Department of Public Safety and Vermont Emergency Management have made a request of college officials that they prepare for the possibility of using one or more of the residence halls and other facilities at each of the residential campuses to accommodate overflow or surge relating to COVID-19.

“To the extent we are not using our residential facilities, they can be of critical use to our neighboring communities during this crisis. They need us to help our neighboring communities see the pandemic through,” Spaulding said.

In addition to the cancellation of on-campus classes, the letter stated dorms will not reopen this semester.

Spaulding said VSCS officials understand some students may not have an immediate alternative to living on campus and the individual schools will work with those students to provide emergency options for housing.

“All off-campus students should also seriously consider returning home as soon as possible,” the letter stated.

The change in classes doesn't affect Community College of Vermont, where administrators already had decided to complete the semester using online classes.

Students were asked to “act without delay to arrange removal of belongings from the residence halls.”

Details on the process, dates and times are expected to come from each school's department of residence life at each. Spaulding asked students not to return to campus until they receive instructions.

“Please be aware that if belongings from residence halls are not removed in a timely fashion, they may be packed up and moved without further permission. Such moving will be at the student’s risk,” the letter stated.

Spaulding pointed out there may be other state orders that cause the plan set on Monday to be altered.

The letter addressed refunds for room and board.

Billing adjustments will be issued for room and board at a pro rata rate, dating back to the day they left the college. The refund should be received within 90 days of the student removing their belongings.

Each college or university will provide information on who to contact with any refund questions. Spaulding noted the timing and criteria could change if Gov. Phil Scott issues additional directives.

According to the letter, decisions are still being made about graduation, commencement ceremonies and the awarding of degrees.

However, Scolforo at Castleton said in a letter to students there, the decision had already been made.

“We want to celebrate your success, and we do not want you to miss out completely on this tradition. We plan to offer a separate ceremony for 2020 graduates in the spring of 2021. I am so sorry to share this news, as I recognize how important celebrating your significant accomplishment is to you and your families. I hope that you are able to find ways to mark this moment until we are able to join together in your honor,” she wrote.

Spaulding acknowledged the gravity of the update he was providing.

“I recognize that we are asking a great deal of you all. COVID-19 is unprecedented and with it come extraordinary decisions for students across Vermont, the United States, and the world,” Spaulding wrote.

The full letter can be read online at www.vsc.edu/covid-19-update-chancellor-vsc-community-march-24-2020

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